adventurer Steve Fossett flew over the Middle East today
after overcoming a navigation equipment problem that
threatened to derail his historic bid to make the first
non-stop flight around the world without refuelling.
Fossett, who took off from here in the Virgin Atlantic
GlobalFlyer yesterday for a flight expected to last
between 60 and 80 hours, said he had to deal with a
number of "dramas" during takeoff but the
flight was going well overall.
2200 GMT (0900 AEDT Wednesday) Fossett was at 14,383
metres and had been in the air for nearly 24 hours. The
GlobalFlyer was over Egypt heading east towards Saudi
Arabia at speeds of around 630km/h. Earlier in the day,
in a radio hook-up with reporters at Mission Control in
Salina, Fossett said he had a "good chance" of
completing the record-breaking flight. He
said the takeoff of the GlobalFlyer, which is
essentially a flying gas tank - 83 per cent of the total
weight is fuel - had been difficult. "It had a lot
of dramas in the launch, dramas with equipment failures
that had to be solved," Fossett said.
plane was much slower than I expected but fortunately
the plane picked up speed and I didn't have to
abort," he said. The most serious problem was
a temporary failure of the Global Positioning System, or
GPS, Fossett's satellite navigation aid.
"This was my sole source of navigation so this was
very serious," he said, adding that the GPS had not
functioned for about half of his flight over Canada.
"I believe it was an antenna problem," Fossett
cautioned that other problems could arise and there was
still a long way to go. "There may be new things
that come up so there's no real basis for
confidence," he said, "but I'm happy with the
situation". At Mission Control, flight
controllers were carefully monitoring fuel consumption.
of the critical factors we are monitoring is the amount
of fuel he has left," said project manager Paul
Moore. "He's eaten quite substantially into his
fuel (so far) but that's as we expected."
Moore said the GPS problem had been potentially fatal to
the flight. "This could have been a
showstopper," he said. "This was really a big
worry as we are unable to fly without GPS especially
when were out of radio range. "Steve was
essentially flying blind," Moore said.
"Happily, after a couple of hours of malfunction
the GPS system did reengage."
Atlantic Global Flyer
said cabin pressure was good and the temperature in the
cramped cockpit was 18 degrees Celsius. "His feet
are a bit chilly," said Moore. The three-day
journey will test the endurance and piloting abilities
of Fossett, a 60-year-old millionaire who has set dozens
of world records and world firsts with jet aeroplanes
and gliders, hot air balloons and sailing.
takeoff, the 1522kg single engine aircraft was carrying
nearly 8636kg of fuel in 13 tanks for the 37,260km
journey at altitudes as high as 15,850 metres.
British entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, founder of
Virgin Atlantic Airways, is funding the GlobalFlyer and
the is part of the Mission Control team monitoring
the flight. The
GlobalFlyer was designed by aviation legend Burt Rutan,
who recently made headlines when his SpaceShipOne won
the $US10 million ($A12.73 million) "X Prize"
for sending a privately-designed craft into space twice
in two weeks.
also designed the Voyager, which was used by his brother
Dick Rutan and Jeanne Yeager in 1986 to set a record of
nine days for a non-stop, non-refuelled flight around
hopes to beat that record by making it in less than 80
hours, and by doing it on his own.
FLYER LINKS :
the Attempt About
the Aircraft Steve
the Aircraft Steve
Fossett Biography Richard
Branson Biography Virgin
is he now